New Delhi: Large numbers of police officers originally posted for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II have been redeployed to the midlands in Leicester, following violent clashes between Hindu and Muslim men over the weekend, which led to the arrest of 15 people, Leicester’s temporary Chief Constable Rob Nixon told the local media.
The weekend violence was the latest in a series of incidents — including communally-provocative chants, mob clashes involving throwing bottles, and the tearing down of a temple flag — that began after an India versus Pakistan Asia Cup cricket game on 28 August.
After the weekend’s disruption, police and community leaders called for calm and restraint between the two communities in Leicester’s east end. Early Monday morning, the police had to resort to using their “stop and search” powers to “deter further disorder”.
An update on our response to the disorder in areas of East Leicester.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our work to reduce tensions and bring people to justice. pic.twitter.com/8m35WQb6J0
— Leicestershire Police (@leicspolice) September 18, 2022
“After the cricket match, there was first an India-Pakistan issue. It then snowballed into a Hindu-Muslim issue. It seems to be young people from both communities who are fighting with each other,” Hitesh Patel, a resident of Leicester for over 40 years, told ThePrint over phone from England.
Before this weekend’s flare-up, and after the cricket match, 27 people were arrested and consequently released on bail in separate incidents between Hindu and Muslim groups till 11 September.
Clashes over the weekend
According to reports, a procession was taken out by a group of Hindu men Saturday in east Leicester’s Green Lane Road. The street has several shops owned by Muslims and a Hindu temple near it. Reportedly, the group was walking through the street while chanting “Jai Shree Ram”.
Majid Freeman, a Leicester resident, video-recorded parts of the Saturday procession and the consequent flare-up. In one of his recordings, a fight erupts between two unidentified individuals, leading to police intervention.
Some are saying what’s the harm in Hindus protesting and chanting their slogans outside the mosque and on the streets? It wasn’t just provoking but the #Hindutva racist mobs were attacking random Muslims in the streets too. The Muslims came out in numbers AFTER this. #Leicester https://t.co/Ari3i5c295 pic.twitter.com/PZXo2iKUNC
— Majid Freeman (@Majstar7) September 18, 2022
In another video, glass bottles can be seen being thrown by the mob and the police asking people to “get back”.
The Guardian quoted Freeman explaining the events on Saturday. He said, “They [Hindus] were throwing bottles and all sorts”. “They [Hindus] were coming past our mosques, taunting the community and physically beating people up randomly.”
According to Freeman, the Muslim community then organised itself in response to the Hindu community’s march, “to defend themselves”.
However, Wasiq Wasiq, a PhD scholar at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, published a video where unidentified individuals were destroying the flags of a Hindu temple.
Shameful scenes of religious hatred against Hindus in Leicester by targeting their temple 👇 pic.twitter.com/4e0nWhYif8
— Wasiq Wasiq (@WasiqUK) September 18, 2022
We are aware of video circulating showing a man pulling down a flag outside a religious building on Melton Road. This appears to have taken place while officers were dealing with nearby public disorder. We do not tolerate violence or disorder and are investigating the incident.
— Leicestershire Police (@leicspolice) September 19, 2022
A blame game between the two communities seems to have broken out. The sequence of events will only get clear after the Leicester Police completes its investigation.
Meanwhile, temporary Chief Constable Rob Nixon has appealed for calm after Saturday’s chaos.
Message from Temporary Chief Constable Rob Nixon. We're taking control of the situation in @LPEastLeics, numerous officers and resources are on the ground, and we are calling for calm. pic.twitter.com/hhLOqFMfHn
— Leicestershire Police (@leicspolice) September 17, 2022
Communities hope for a swift resolution
“We’ve been living together in Leicester for over 40 years. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, it’s never mattered. This is young people losing their cool. The community is very disturbed. Leaders are getting involved, this issue will get resolved soon,” added Leicester resident Hitesh Patel.
Suleman Nagdi, from the Leicester-based Federation of Muslim Organisations, told the BBC, “We need calm — the disorder has to stop and it has to stop now. There are some very dissatisfied young men who have been causing havoc. We need to get the message out that this must end and try to do this through parents and grandparents talking to their sons.”
A statement from a group of Hindu and Jain temples of Leicester declared they were appalled by the violence, and called for immediate peace, stating that those responsible from within the community must be dealt with.
Explaining the politics of the sloganeering, Shruti Kapila, Professor of Indian History and Global Political Thought at the University of Cambridge, told ThePrint: “Ever since the genesis of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, Hindu nationalism has become a global phenomenon.”
“The upwardly mobile Hindu diaspora in the UK and the US are deeply politicised. These events are perhaps a natural fallout of their politics in the United Kingdom.” Such events diminish India’s global image as a peaceful and inclusive democracy, Kapila added.